HVAC Salary: Requirements, Education, And More

With a booming construction industry, many industry have seen a growth in the number of jobs and salary, and the HVAC industry is no different. The construction industry is one of the most significant in the United States, and many professionals from real estate professionals to HVAC installers have a chance to get a piece of the robust construction pie. Most people only see the finished product when they look at a house and they forgot all of the labor that goes into it. HVAC installation is an important component of construction and repair and this is reflected in the HVAC salary.

WHAT IS HVAC?

Like many professions in the home construction, restoration, or repair business, HVAC can be essentially divided into installation and repair. Of course, new homes will require the installation of systems responsible for regulating temperature, but repair and troubleshooting of systems that have already been installed is also an important part of this industry. Anyone that has traveled around the United States knows you have regions that get pretty hot, and it is difficult to imagine how people would maintain a standard of life that we have become accustomed to in this country without the essential work of the HVAC installer and repairer.

HVAC is an acronym that stands for heating, ventilation, and cooling, which encompasses the primary technical areas that professionals in the HVAC industry are specialized in. As you can imagine, there are many types of heating, ventilation, and cooling systems, perhaps as many as there are types of houses that need these units installed, so this career presents both a challenge in being able to master the tools of the trade, but also room for constant education and excitement. Because temperature regulation is crucial in places where temperatures frequently reach above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summertime, workers can expect an HVAC salary that is stable and reflective of their importance.

Naturally, a professional in the HVAC  business may be involved in various aspects of the business, not just installation, repair, and maintenance. Some professionals also sell HVAC systems, particularly in residential areas, while others are involved in product safety and testing. This means that individuals entering this industry due have some flexibility in terms of what their day-to-day activities are like. The main areas that HVAC installers and technicians work in include:

  • Maintenance of HVAC equipment
  • Installation of HVAC equipment
  • Repair and troubleshooting of equipment
  • Sale of HVAC systems in residential areas
  • Testing heating, ventilation, and cooling systems for temperature and air quality purposes

Although the worker in the HVAC industry should expect to be involved in hands-on duties, installing, removing, testing, and adjusting equipment, there is more to the job than manual labor. A successful HVAC technician will have to use analytical and troubleshooting skills in order to quickly and reliably resolve issues with HVAC equipment, and they will need to read blueprints and have knowledge of mathematics and physics.

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There is some variability in terms of work setting with the career of the HVAC installer and technician. Technicians are often on their feet and can be expected to work in different locales, not just residential areas. A technician may find himself working in these locations. 

  • Office buildings
  • Schools
  • Homes
  • Factories

Because of these varied setting, someone considering a career in the HVAC industry should be mobile, able to walk and carry heavy loads, and able to work outside in the heat, cold, and potentially other adverse weather conditions.  Because the heating, ventilation, and cooling industry is so hands-on, workers can expect a lot of their training to be on the job. Their store of knowledge will increase over time, as they gain more experience. For this reason and others, there are opportunities for increases in the base HVAC salary.

Finally, as the HVAC industry has been influenced by advancements in computer technology, like many other technical fields, HVAC workers will need some computer knowledge and experience, with workers that have a stronger computer background perhaps having somewhat of an advantage over their peers.

EDUCATION AND CERTIFICATION

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A career in heating, ventilation, and cooling is highly technical, so sufficient training to prepare the future worker is required. There are many programs in the United States that can prepare men and women for careers in HVAC, including two-year associate’s degree programs, as well as apprenticeships and one-year certification programs. These programs can be completed in a variety of settings, including in person at community colleges and technical schools. There are also online programs that lead to certificates in HVAC installation and repair.

Because a career in this industry is highly technical, most HVAC programs require a high school diploma or GED. It is recommended that high school courses in mathematics, shop, physics, or other technical subjects are completed to prepare the future worker, though these generally are not a requirement for students entering degree or certification programs. Although most students today choose degree and certification programs, there are also apprenticeships that provide great hands-on knowledge.

Apprenticeships were once the industry standard in the heating, ventilation, and cooling industry, though they have become less common. Apprenticeships require the applicant to have a high school diploma or GED and pass a test to assess basic knowledge. A drug test and a valid driver’s license are also required. Apprenticeship programs are intense, lasting three to five years and requiring completion of a specified number of hours of on the job training as well as more formal education work in the classroom.

In terms of licensing, the requirements here vary from state to state. Some states require an HVAC installer or technician to have a license. Even in states where a license is not required, it may be beneficial to the installer or technician to have a license as this may increase their ability to secure work or increase their potential HVAC salary. Licensure examinations generally require the technician to demonstrate knowledge and competence. Again, though licensing is not mandatory nationwide, any technician working with refrigerants is required by the Environmental Protection Agency to obtain special certification.

CAREER PATH

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It comes as no surprise that an important aspect of deciding on a career is the industry trajectory in terms of job growth. The HVAC industry is expected to show a 21% growth in the number of jobs in the next decade according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS). This is above the national average growth percentage for all industries and suggests that the HVAC industry is keeping pace with the construction industry. This also suggests that HVAC technicians will see continued demand for their work.

Although the basics of the industry should remain consistent, there will be changes in the HVAC industry in the future, as with most other technical industries. The industry is becoming more computerized, with many heating, ventilation, and cooling systems being controlled or maintained by computers. This should come as no surprise as many people already have HVAC systems that are computer-operated. But what this means for the industry is that workers who have already been working in HVAC may require training on new computer systems, and individuals entering the field may be at an advantage if they already have moderate or advanced training in computers.

Although the career outlook is bright for HVAC installers and technicians, the industry is highly tied to the economy. Many HVAC installers work on construction sites, and the construction industry is heavily economy dependent. Downturns in the economy will mean reduced demand for HVAC installers and therefore fewer jobs and potentially stagnant pay. Technicians involved in HVAC maintenance and repair should be less influenced by the economy and can expect continued work and a stable or growing HVAC salary from repairing already existing units.

AVERAGE HVAC SALARY

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The average HVAC salary may surprise some. States with more extreme temperatures, like Alaska, tend to pay higher wages. The median wage for an HVAC installer in Alaska was $28.13 in 2014, which was the highest hourly rate nationwide. On the other end of the spectrum, the median wage in West Virginia was $15.71 in 2014. Although wages for HVAC installers and technicians are highly variable based on the region of the county in which the workers are currently employed, the BLS reports a median wage nationwide of $20.98 with annual earnings of $43,640. Some workers can make more, and these numbers may change with growth in demand for HVAC installers over the next decade.

CONCLUSION

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With good prospects for growth in the industry and constant demand for workers able to install, repair, and maintain heating, ventilation, and cooling systems, HVAC represents a good investment for workers looking for job stability. Although wages are highly dependent on the area of the country where the worker is employed, straightforward and manageable education and certification requirements make HVAC a good choice from a financial standpoint. Although HVAC installers may see their prospects influenced by unexpected economic swings, the demand for repair should be unchanged and meet targets of 21% growth in the next ten years.


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